The Discontent of One’s Life

Topics: John Steinbeck, Short story, Salinas, California Pages: 3 (1049 words) Published: February 19, 2013
The Discontent of One’s Life
The short story, written by John Steinbeck, called “The Chrysanthemums” demonstrates an interesting theme of great magnitude. The main focus of this short story is based around the isolation and dissatisfaction of Elisa Allen’s life. From the beginning, the main character Elisa is alone. While her husband is having a business conversation with some men dressed in suits and smoking cigarettes, she is tending to her garden of chrysanthemums. Not only she is alone physically, she is also afflicted by both emotional and sexual distress. Eventually that sense of loneliness leads to the discontent of her life, until a scruffy, middle-aged man appears in a worn out caravan being pulled by a horse and a small donkey, known as a burro.

The setting of the short story sets the tone for the theme. It opens up with the following description: “The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world.” (1) The environment of Elisa Allen’s current home location leaves the rural valley with little to no exchange from the outside world. Henry Allen, Elisa’s husband, is having a business conversation with two professional men as they stood near the tractor shed. When Elisa views her husband from the distance of her chrysanthemum garden, she feels that sense of separation. Her physical and emotional being begins to reach feelings of abandonment, while her husband partakes in the manual labor and demanding tasks of the ranch, which is supposed to be considered “a man’s job,” whereas “the women’s job” is characterized by the actions of gardening, preparing meals and maintaining a clean residency. After her husband Henry leaves to finish his business affiliations, Elisa spots a wagon that is being controlled by an unshaven man. As he dismantles from his caravan, Elisa and the stranger strike a conversation about her gardening abilities and her “. . . planters’ hands.”(13) They discussed how she...

Cited: Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction,Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 11th ed. New York: Pearson, 2010. Print.
Steinbeck, John. The Chrysanthemums. Logan, IA: Perfection Form, 1979. Print.
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